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Ziggy Primary School in Mpheni, Limpopo, is not registered according to the education department. Photo: Thembi Siaga

Unregistered school in Mpheni may soon be closed

 

An unregistered school in Mpheni village, catering for children up to Grade 5, may soon be closed, and the approximately 150 children will have to find a new educational home. The school has allegedly been masquerading as a registered institution for at least two years, collecting money from parents while not offering accredited tuition.

Ziggy Children’s Centre opened its doors around 2018 in Mpheni village. Initially, it functioned as an Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD). When exactly the institution started catering to school children is not certain, but in June 2022, it received building materials from the local Cashbuild store under its “Art at Heart” programme. A signboard erected at the time refers to the institution as the “Ziggy Primary School”. The signboard at the school also refers to the “Ziggy Primary School”, with its motto being “Dedicated to building the nation.” Its values include honesty, integrity, and perseverance.

However, the owners of the institution seem to have misunderstood part of the values.

Mr Matome Taueatsoala, who is the spokesperson for the Limpopo MEC for Education, Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya, stated unequivocally a week ago that the school is not registered. “No person may establish or maintain an independent school unless it is registered by the Head of the Department. The records are very clear that the school is not registered. A team will be dispatched to conduct further investigations. The school will be closed, and learners will be transferred to public schools,” said Taueatsoala.

Some of the parents started suspecting last year that all was not well concerning the school’s registration. They were, however, led from pillar to post by the owner, and some believe they were even fed false information. When they demanded an Education Management Information Systems number, they were told that the registration was pending.

No Ziggy Primary School is registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). A private company, Ziggy Children’s Centre, was registered in February 2018 with a Thohoyandou address. The directors are Ms Elizabeth Makondo from Vuwani, along with Mr Herbert Zigara and his wife, Rugare Zigara from Zimbabwe. The status of the company is indicated as being in “final deregistration” because of outstanding reports and payments.

From discussions with parents, Ms Rugare Zigara appears to be the person in charge at the school. When she was phoned by Limpopo Mirror last week, she was very evasive and refused to answer any questions. She referred all queries to an attorney, Mr Thabelo Nengwekhulu.

Questions were subsequently directed to Mr Nengwekhulu, who at first insisted that questions be sent to him using the official letterhead of the newspaper. A list of questions was sent to him, and he was asked to respond by Monday, 18 March. When no answers were forthcoming, he was contacted again. “It is unfortunate at this stage our client has not responded to us as yet, we would have loved to have our client's side of the response heard,” he said.

Nengwekhulu again requested proof of the reporter’s previous work. “I'm sure you have other stories to run while you wait; this can’t possibly be the biggest story you can write,” he added. He ended by saying: “The year is long; let’s not disturb the learners yet; they just finished the first term. Let’s play nice for them.”

Some of the parents that Limpopo Mirror spoke to were not so patient and believed that not only had they paid for an illegal school, but also that part of their children’s lives had been stolen. None of the parents wanted their names to be mentioned, but they were very upset about the way in which they were treated, especially regarding inquiries about the registration.

“They told us that the district is busy with it. She sent us the phone number of someone who claimed that he was from the Elim circuit, but some of us discovered that he was not from the circuit. Two years back, parents threatened to strike, but Zigara allegedly promised them discounts for three months,” she said.

According to parents, they did not know initially that the school was not registered, and what had attracted them to enrol their children there was the fact that the school’s learners could speak English fluently. Another parent said what worried them now was allegations that the learners used to write exams while being assisted all the time.

“When we ask them to write on their own, they are unable, and some cannot read well. Another burning issue is that the school also has pupils with disabilities, and those learners need a special school. The owner seems like she only cares about money, not the education of our children,” a parent said.

The school charges a monthly fee of R850 for the senior-grade learners, and a R300 registration fee is payable. New learners also have to pay a R500 “table levy”.

 

 

Date:23 March 2024

By: Thembi Siaga

Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.

Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.

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